I was on my way into work today and it hit me. It had been on my mind for some time, years perhaps. But today, as I drove west toward downtown San Diego in the quiet ease of the early morning, I realized how sad I am.
In a couple of years, I won’t see you on a daily basis.
Every parent feels this coming. The relationship we’ve built over the course of nearly two decades is going to shift. I don’t know how or into what form, but it’s going to shift. As I contemplated that unknown, gray area of the future, I started to reflect on all of the memories I have with each of you.
The time I watched you (E) swing my golf club in the yard for the first time. You were a year old, and all you did was emulate what you’d seen me do, but it was such a perfect swing… The time you mule-kicked C (who also happened to be a year old in this memory) off of the stairs in our apartment, smashing his mouth into the door frame, which incredibly brought blood but no tears (he’s always been tough)… The time you swung at a nerf ball I threw to you in the living room (oops) and you accidentally threw the bat across the room and sent the entire sliding glass door crashing to the ground in a heap of glass… The time your mom taught you both how to rollerblade in the alley… The day I had to tell you that your mom just died… The time we went to the beach and you both jumped into the water with all of your clothes on… Every single day I dropped you off at school, went to work, and then picked you both up to go to ARTS so you could learn and heal… Your first performance at San Diego Indie Fest as a brother-band… How close we grew together as a family of three Graves boys… How far we’ve come since…
All of these things came to me in a feeling. I don’t know if it was fear or sadness of losing the most important people in my life, or regret that I could have spent more time with each of you. To be honest, I don’t truly know how to categorize it. It’s just a lovesick hurt that sits in my heart reserved for the day you move away.
I will miss you both so much when you leave our home and begin making your own. I’ll be so very proud of you, with a smile from ear to ear, and a heart yearning to stay connected in spite of how disconnected I am with my own parents. I’ll begin a new chapter of life, just as you will, hoping that all the time I’ve invested in your lives and all the love I’ve poured into your hearts will give back in the shape of a simple desire to remain a part of my life. Is that selfish? I don’t actually know yet. This is the future I’m talking about, so I have no idea how it plays out. But I can promise you with 100% certainty that I will have given you all I’ve ever had because being your dad is and has always been the greatest gift God has given me. And you have been worth every single second.
Someday you will experience this same pain as you think about the day your children will move away to start the lives you’ve so intentionally helped to support and shape. Nothing will make you prouder. And as I sit here in tears thinking about it, nothing will scare you more. But it’s exactly as it’s supposed to be. Parenting so strongly resembles our relationship with God. That’s the true power of love: It’s so strong and so deep that it hurts when there’s separation, but it’s also so free that it allows it.